7 Important Nutrients Depleted by Psychiatric Drugs

There is no biological free lunch.
— Tim Ferriss
Bottle of psychiatric drugs and fruits and vegetables.

If you try to cheat nature, it will backfire. 

By managing symptoms with synthetic man-made drugs, you may feel better for a while. But once you stop those drugs, you will end up with more symptoms than you started with.

I experienced this firsthand. 

When I was on SSRI antidepressants and Adderall, I felt better initially.

But then something just didn’t feel right.

I started suffering from cognitive decline, something I hadn't experienced before.

I eventually got fed up with the medication and tried getting off of them.

But then I felt remarkably worse – much worse than I did before starting the medication.

Doctors simply told me I was experiencing a relapse of my depression and anxiety.

But that couldn’t be it, because not only were my symptoms much worse, but I also had new symptoms - symptoms I didn't experience before I went on medication.

So I did some research, and discovered something called “drug-induced nutrient depletion”.

Studies show that pharmaceutical drugs can deplete your body of critical nutrients through multiple mechanisms, including increased excretion of vitamins and minerals, and impaired digestion, absorption and storage of nutrients. Over time, nutritional deficiencies can develop. And these deficiencies can cause additional symptoms and increase side effects. In fact, many drug "side effects" are simply nutritional deficiencies. 

This is clearly a problem because, as I’ve discussed before, nutrient deficiencies can be one of the main causes of mental illness. Being prescribed medication which then further depletes vitamins and minerals from your body will make you worse. It’s an epidemic that seems to be ignored by the conventional medical system. 

Citrus fruits and prescription pills.

You may even develop new symptoms or side effects months or years after starting a medication because it takes time for nutrients to be depleted from your body. So both you and your doctor may not make the connection between the original medication and new symptoms. 

These additional symptoms and “side effects” are often diagnosed as a new disease, leading to a new prescription, which further depletes nutrients. 

So it’s clearly a downward spiral where you could end up being on multiple medications. 

At my worst, I was on four psychiatric medications. Thankfully I'm off them all now and very healthy. 

But this article discusses the seven key nutrients that are commonly depleted by psychiatric medication, and how you can replenish them, minimize side effects and feel better. 

Your drug package insert won’t list these deficiencies, and your doctor is definitely not aware of them.

Click here to subscribe

1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule found in every cell of your body and plays a key role in the production of energy. 

It’s also an antioxidant and protects your body and brain from free radical damage. 

Higher levels of CoQ10 have a “significant antidepressant effect” in rats because of its “well-documented antioxidant effect”. This makes sense considering the increasing amount of scientific literature suggesting that oxidative stress contributes to depression.

Unfortunately, studies show that a number of psychiatric medications including antidepressants, deplete CoQ10.

Low levels of CoQ10 can cause brain fog, mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, depression and irritability.

Other deficiency symptoms can include increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, high blood sugar, and shortness of breath. 

That’s why I recommend supplementing with at least 100 mg of CoQ10 if you take one of the medications below, which have been proven to deplete CoQ10:

  • Antipsychotics - Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Antidepressants - Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil)

You can get CoQ10 here.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral that participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. This includes neurotransmitter, enzyme, and hormonal activity, all of which can have a huge effect on your mood and brain function.

It’s one of the most important nutrients for optimal brain health, and reduces anxiety, depression and irritability. Yet, many people are deficient in magnesium today and may experience the following symptoms because of it:

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Muscle weakness, cramps, tremors, and spasms

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Insomnia

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Heart arrhythmias

  • Osteoporosis

  • Nausea

Interestingly, these symptoms sound very similar to the list of side effects of many common common psychiatric medications.

And research has shown that the following psychiatric medications deplete magnesium from your body, increasing the likeliness of developing a deficiency:

  • Antidepressants - Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Venlafaxine (Effexor)

  • Central nervous stimulants - amphetamine (Adderall), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), atomoxetine (Strattera), dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)

Inadequate magnesium levels contribute and worsen many neuropsychiatric problems. This includes depression, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, ADHD, pain, schizophrenia, irritability, premenstrual syndrome, drug abuse, and short-term memory and IQ loss. Case studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia or major depression who have attempted suicide had significantly lower levels of magnesium in their cerebrospinal fluid. 

Maybe doctors should consider prescribing magnesium – something that actually gets to the root cause of these conditions – rather than giving out medications that cover up symptoms and actually make the underlying condition worse. Just a thought.

So if you have mental health condition, or take medication to deal with it, I'm convinced you should be supplementing with magnesium every single day. I take 200 mg of this magnesium supplement before bed. You can get it here.

Besides supplementation, you should make sure to eat lots of food with magnesium, including avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, spinach, dark chocolate, halibut and beets. 

Click here to subscribe
Baby sleeping under a blanket.

Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm).

It is critical for deep and restorative sleep, which is necessary for optimal brain and mental health. 

Yet many psychiatric medications can deplete your supply of melatonin, increase your need for melatonin, or interfere with the activity of melatonin. This can lead to insomnia at night and fatigue during the day, which are common side effects of psychotropic medication. You may also experience frequent waking throughout the night.

Here are some of the drugs shown to affect melatonin:

  • Antidepressants, including Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Venlafaxine (Effexor)

  • Benzodiazepines, including Diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (‎Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Alprazolam (Xanax)

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

If you take one of these drugs, you should consider supplementing with melatonin every night. If you don’t take medication, it is still a safe and effective way to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. You can get melatonin here.

You can also consider taking this sleep supplement. It contains magnesium and a number of natural compounds that increase the production of melatonin naturally. You can use the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount. 

4. Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, plays a key role in energy metabolism throughout your entire body.  

As a result, a deficiency can affect the entire body, leading to low energy, weight gain, and skin and thyroid problems. 

The following drugs can inhibit the absorption of vitamin B2, increasing your need for supplementation:

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Anticonvulsants and Mood Stabilizers, including Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Primidone (Mysoline), Methsuxamide (Elontin), Valproic acid (Depakote), topiramate (Topomax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin)

  • Antidepressants, including Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil)

Lower levels of vitamin B2 have been found in people with depression, so giving them psychiatric medications can actually make them feel worse in the long run. 

To help yourself, you can supplement with Vitamin B2

When I was on medication, I took this Vitamin B2 supplement through Amazon.

I now take the Optimal Zinc supplement because it includes Vitamin B2.

Healthy food sources of Vitamin B2 include pastured eggs, leafy vegetables, beef liver, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and almonds. 

5. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a key nutrient that boosts mood, deepens sleep, and supports your entire nervous system. 

It accomplishes this by playing a key role in the production of many neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin, GABA and dopamine

But since psychiatric medications alter these neurotransmitters, vitamin B6 levels can be affected as well. 

When I took antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, multiple functional and integrative doctors suggested I supplement with vitamin B6.

This is because multiple medications have been shown to deplete Vitamin B6:

Fruits and vegetables displayed to show the letter B and the number 6. Vitamin B6 is depleted by psychiatric drugs.
  • Antidepressants, including Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil).

  • Benzodiazepines, including Diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (‎Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Alprazolam (Xanax)

So if you take one of the above medications, I highly recommend supplementing with Vitamin B6

I previously took 100 mg of this Vitamin B6 supplement when I was on medication. 

But I now take the Optimal Zinc supplement because it includes both Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B2. 

Drugs that deplete vitamin B2 will also indirectly deplete vitamin B6 because B2 is required to activate B6:

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Anticonvulsants and Mood Stabilizers, including Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Primidone (Mysoline), Methsuxamide (Elontin), Valproic acid (Depakote), topiramate (Topomax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin)

Symptoms of B6 deficiency include weakness, mental confusion, depression, insomnia and severe PMS symptoms. 

Some of the best food sources of Vitamin B6 include potatoes, bananas and chicken.

Click here to subscribe

6. Vitamin B12 and 7. Folate

Vitamin B12 and folate are essential B vitamins that play a key role in methylation, one of the most important processes in your body and brain for optimal energy and nervous system function.

If you are depressed, you likely have lower levels of B12 and folate circulating in your blood, and people with low blood folate and B12 are at greater risk for developing depression

Yet, instead of looking at folate and B12 levels in the blood, doctors often prescribe all sorts of psychiatric medications that have been shown to deplete folate and B12, including:

  • Antidepressants – Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil)

  • Benzodiazepines – Diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (‎Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Alprazolam (Xanax)

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Anticonvulsants and Mood Stabilizers, including Lithium (Lithobid), Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Primidone (Mysoline), Methsuxamide (Elontin), Valproic acid (Depakote), topiramate (Topomax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin)

B12 and folate deficiency can lead to an inability to methylate properly and increased homocysteine levels. This can worsen your depression, irritability, fatigue, confusion and forgetfulness. 

If you decide to supplement with folate, avoid synthetic folic acid. Instead, you should take a biologically active form of folate (methylfolate). 

I take methylfolate. It's the most effective supplemental form of folate. Many people, including myself, have genetic mutations in the enzyme that produces l-methylfolate in the body. Folic acid is a waste and can actually cause harm if you have this genetic mutation. 

Methylfolate also helps produce SAM-e in the body, which can help fight depression and improve your mood. 

If you decide to supplement with B12, you should avoid the semisynthetic version (cyanocobalamin) and take the methylated form (methyl-B12), which is better absorbed. 

Both methyfolate and methyl-B12 are included in this B complex. Or you can take them separately. 

Good dietary sources of natural folate include leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries. B12 is found primarily in animal foods, and beef liver is a really good source. 

More

Here are some more nutrients that have been shown to be depleted by psychiatric medication. Reduced levels do appear in the research - just not as consistently as the nutrients above - so supplementation should still be considered:

  • Vitamin D – Antidepressants, Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers

  • Vitamin B1 – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics

  • Biotin – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers

  • Essential Fatty Acids, including Omega-3s – Antidepressants

  • Sodium (add sea salt to meals) – Antidepressants

  • Glutathione – Antidepressants

  • Calcium – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Antidepressants, Mood Stabilizers

  • Vitamin K – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers

  • Vitamin C – Antidepressants, Stimulants (Adderall), Antipsychotics

  • Inositol – Mood Stabilizers, Antipsychotics

  • Vitamin B3 – Antidepressants

  • Potassium – Stimulants (Adderall)

  • Vitamin A – Antipsychotics

  • Carnitine – Antipsychotics

  • Various minerals (Zinc, Selenium and Manganese) – Antidepressants

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the medication you may be consuming to manage your mental health actually reduces nutrient absorption, and can rob your body and brain of essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to unwanted side effects and declining health.

On top of this, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are actually a huge underlying cause of mental health issues to begin with. 

Luckily, you can avoid side effects, and even control and overcome chronic mental disease without medication, by restoring these missing nutrients:

If I had simply been prescribed these nutrients, I wouldn’t have needed medication. Instead, I was given a prescription that made my underlying deficiencies worse, and dug me into a deeper mental health hole.

If you have to take a prescribed drug, you can offset many of the side effects and experience much better health by supplementing with the above nutrients. 

So why isn’t this information passed on to patients who are taking psychiatric drugs? Because unfortunately, almost all doctors are unaware that medications can deplete nutritional reserves.

So for now, you’ll just have to be aware of drug-nutrient depletions yourself. 

If you’re interested in learning more, there are several handbooks and resources in the reference section of this article, including the Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook and The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs

Enjoy This Article? You Might Also Like My FREE Food Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health!

Click here to subscribe

Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

Connect with me

About the Author

Jordan Fallis is a health and science journalist and researcher, and the founder of Optimal Living Dynamics, a website that has helped more than 1.5 million people improve their brain and mental health. His work has been featured in the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Pharmacists Journal. Jordan has also interviewed, consulted, and worked with more than one hundred medical doctors, health practitioners and leading researchers. He spends a lot of time scouring medical research, writing about what he finds, and putting the theories to the test on himself.

References:

Pelton, Lavalle, Hawkins, Krinsky. Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook. Lexi-Comp; 2nd Ed., 2001

Pelton R Lavalle. The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs. Morton Publishing Co, 2nd Ed., 2004

Vaglini F, Fox B. The Side Effects Bible: The Dietary Solution to Unwanted Side Effects of Common Medications. Broadway, 2005.

A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition: Improve Your Health and Avoid Side Effects When Using Common Medications and Natural Supplements Together

Kishi T, et al, “Inhibition of myocardial respiration by psychotherapeutic drugs and prevention by coenzymeQ,” Biomedical and clinical aspects of coenzyme Q, Yamamura Y, Folkers K, and Ito Y, eds, Elsevier/NorthHollandBiomedical Press: Amsterdam, 1980, vol2, 129-154.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, third edition, (2000, Balch & Balch)

https://tantor-site-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/bonus-content/B0592_DrugMuggers/B0592_DrugMuggers_PDF_1.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7728363

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8848522

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1289919

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6262379

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7150370

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6705444

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6626265

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6737696

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6167651

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1578091

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9155210

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10896698

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7150370

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10746516

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9861593

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16542786

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11041381

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9368236

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18705537

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16542786

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17568057

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/635065

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22081620

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23313551

https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/melatonin

http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000712

http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000706

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00048670802534408

http://www.naturemade.com/~/media/Images/NatureMade/PDF/Health%20Care%20Professionals/HCP%20Updates%20042315/Common%20Drug%20Classes%20and%20Nutrient%20Interactions%20Chart%20FNL.ashx

Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

Affiliate Disclosure

Disclaimer

3 Foods You Should Avoid for Better Mental Health

Avoiding these three foods was one of the very first steps I took to improve my mental health.

I had a lot more energy, improved mood and reduced anxiety.

Unfortunately, about two months after cutting them out, I moved into a moldy house and suffered two really bad concussions. At that point, I had to look for even more advanced solutions.

But if you haven't done so already, I would strongly encourage you to try removing these three foods from your diet.

Doing so will likely improve your symptoms and calm your nervous system, making other therapies even more effective.

It’s harder to overcome trauma if you haven’t taken care of your physiology, as researchers have found that food allergies and sensitivities can trigger a wide range of emotional and mental health symptoms (110).

The problem with some foods is that they disrupt normal gut function and increase intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome). 

When this happens, small particles of food can leak into your bloodstream. Your immune system sees these food particles as foreign entities and attacks them, increasing inflammation throughout your body and reducing the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, which can cause or worsen mental health problems (4-6, 66-67). 

This is discussed in the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression, Schizophrenia by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD.

If I eat any of these three foods by accident, I supplement with activated charcoal or bentonite clay

Activated charcoal and bentonite clay are potent natural treatments that can trap problematic proteins, toxins and chemicals, allowing them to be flushed out of your body. 

I notice I don’t feel as sick when I do this, and recover much more quickly.

Without further ado, here are three foods that I avoid as much as possible. 

A woman thinking and looking at two lightbulbs. One lightbulb is full of pizza, fries and junk food. Another lightbulb is full of leafy green vegetables.

1. Wheat

Gluten sensitivity can be primarily, and at times, exclusively, a neurological disease.
— Dr. Hadjivassiliou, MD, Professor of Neurology

Following a gluten-free diet has significantly improved my mental health (even though I didn’t have any terrible digestive issues). 

Wheat can contribute to mental illnesses.

I completely cut it out seven years ago, and within a few weeks, I felt so much better mentally. 

I also lost a bunch of weight and my asthma disappeared. 

I haven't touched it again since.

The same thing happened to Mikhaila Peterson, the daughter of University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson.

She followed a gluten-free diet and her depression, fatigue, irritability and memory problems faded away, allowing her to come off her antidepressants.

Dr. Peterson made the same dietary changes and was able to reduce his medication by half. 

You can watch a video of them discussing it here

Unfortunately, the myth continues to spread that only people with celiac disease need to avoid gluten-containing food. That’s simply not true.  

Dr. Kenneth Fine, a pioneer in gluten intolerance research, has demonstrated that 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant, and that 8 in 10 have the genes that predispose them to developing gluten intolerance (1-3). 

The benefits of cutting out gluten are also discussed in this book

So if you struggle with a cognitive or mental health condition, you owe it to yourself to follow a strict gluten-free diet for 30 days and see how you feel. You'll likely feel better.

For more than sixty years, reports in the scientific literature have linked wheat and gluten sensitivity to a variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions (75-81), including:

A PubMed literature search (dates 1953–2011) located 162 original articles associating psychiatric and neurologic complications to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Thirty-six articles were located for seizure disorders, 20 articles for ataxia and cerebellar degeneration, 26 for neuropathy, 20 for schizophrenia, 14 for depression, 12 for migraine, and up to 10 articles each for anxiety disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, myopathy, and white matter lesions.
  • Schizophrenia (39-60)

  • Depression (18-25)

  • Autism spectrum disorders (30-38)

  • Epilepsy and seizures (13-17)

  • Dementia and cognitive decline (61-63)

  • Anxiety (9-10)

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (26-27)

  • Cerebellar ataxia (69-72)

  • Social phobia (11)

  • Panic disorder (12)

  • Bipolar disorder (28)

  • Migraines (29)

 

Luckily, research shows that when people with these neurological and psychiatric disorders follow a gluten-free diet, there is a reduction in their symptoms. 

Many times, there is even a complete resolution in their symptoms. 

In one study, depressed patients who didn’t have digestive issues (like me) followed a gluten-free diet. Within 2-3 months, they experienced a reversal of their depressive symptoms (68). 

Researchers have also found that a gluten-free diet improves depression and reduces behavioural problems by increasing levels of l-tryptophan – the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin (64). 

Another study found a significant increase in serotonin and dopamine because of the removal of gluten (65). 

Clearly, there is more to gluten than celiac disease and digestive issues, and cutting out wheat is one of the first dietary steps I recommend to people who are striving to overcome mental health challenges. 

I understand that it's tough to cut out completely, but it’s worth a try because it may be all you need. 

A grain-free diet, although difficult to maintain (especially for those that need it the most), could improve the mental health of many and be a complete cure for others.
— Dr. Paola Bressan

Other than avoiding wheat, you should also avoid foods that contain barley, rye and spelt because they also contain gluten. Sauces, condiments and soups often contain it, so you should stay clear of almost all processed food. Even some medications can contain gluten

As discussed in the GAPS Diet book, the bacteria in our guts can determine the degree to which we are sensitive to gluten (73). 

So you should also try to increase the good bacteria in your gut

And as I mentioned earlier, I take this activated charcoal or this bentonite clay whenever I accidentally consume wheat and it minimizes the negative effects. 

Click here to subscribe

2. Milk

"Milk, and all that comes from milk, increases melancholy." – Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy

After childhood, many people lose the enzyme, lactase, required to digest milk.

And a lot of people who suffer from brain and mental health problems are allergic or sensitive to milk.

People are allergic or sensitive to two main components of milk – lactose and casein.

Casein is the milk protein. Lactose is the milk sugar. 

Like gluten, both lactose and casein can contribute to inflammation in the body and brain, contributing to mental illness.

A glass of milk. The protein and sugars in milk can cause inflammation and contribute to mental illnesses.

Research shows that people with neuropsychiatric diseases – including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and autism – often have significantly elevated immune reactions to casein in milk, which corresponds with the severity of their mental symptoms. And their symptoms can be “improved substantially or even been cured completely” on a dairy-free diet (82-83, 85-91). 

Interestingly, casein has been shown to reduce the absorption of cysteine by 64% (92). 

Cysteine is an important amino acid for mental health. I previously discussed it here

It plays a role in the production of glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant, which protects your body from oxidative stress. And people with mental health problems often have high levels of oxidative stress (93-94). 

Therefore, milk may indirectly reduce glutathione levels and increase oxidative stress by preventing the amino acid cysteine from entering cells (92). 

Perhaps this is why so many people find benefit from supplementing with n-acetyl-cysteine

Folate is another critical nutrient for mental health, and milk has been shown to decrease the transport of folate into the brain (95). 

This makes sense considering that folate plays a key role in methylation, and other research has found that casein also reduces DNA methylation by 43% (96). 

Lastly, researchers have also discovered that high levels of lactose in the intestines can interfere with tryptophan metabolism and serotonin levels. They concluded that lactose malabsorption may play a role in the development of depression (84). 

All this being said, it seems that dairy affects everyone differently.

So you should try eliminating all conventional milk-based foods including ice cream, cheese and yogurt for 30 days. Then try adding it back in and examine how you feel.

It’s important to note that the milk in the grocery store is usually processed, homogenized, and pasteurized with distorted fats and denatured proteins. It’s not considered a whole food and I think everyone should avoid it. 

My free food guide still includes grass-fed, full-fat, organic dairy because it’s a healthy whole food and plenty of people can tolerate it just fine.

I personally choose not to eat any milk or dairy though because I still feel better without it.

In conclusion, here is Dr. Daniel Kalish’s take on dairy. He is the author of The Kalish Method: Healing the Body, Mapping the Mind

People with sub-clinical gluten intolerance need to avoid pasteurized cow’s milk products. As the villi on the intestinal lining heal from a gluten free diet, most individuals will be able to tolerate raw or unpasteurized dairy products again in nine months to a year. In other people, there will be a more or less permanent sensitivity to dairy products. However, in the initial two months of eliminating gluten, it is absolutely required to avoid all milk dairy products, because they will inflame the intestine lining just like gluten does and prevent healing.
— Dr. Daniel Kalish

3. Vegetable Oil

The increased incidence rate of major depression since 1913 may be explained by a sharp increase in the rate of omega-6 PUFAs in the diet.
— Dr. Michael Maes

The last food you should avoid or significantly limit is refined vegetable oil, including soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, and canola oils.

They are highly unstable and oxidize very easily. 

Like gluten, vegetable oils are everywhere and hard to avoid because they’re included in most processed foods.  

These oils are also predominantly made up of omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega 6 and Omega 3 content of oils.

This is a problem because most people eat way too many omega-6 fatty acids today, and not enough omega-3 fatty acids.  

Omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation, while omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation.

An international panel of lipid experts says that the ideal dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is approximately 1 to 1. But these same experts estimate that the current ratio that people are consuming today is around 20 to 1 (97-101).

As I discussed before, omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent and treat mental disorders

Unfortunately, they are being outnumbered by the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in our food supply. 

Luckily you can combat this by staying clear of vegetable oils, supplementing with krill oil, and eating wild salmon regularly (You can get very high-quality seafood and krill oil supplements here).

Not doing this can lead to mental health problems.

Dr. Raymond Peat, PhD, says that the sudden increase of vegetable oils in our food supply after World War II has caused many changes in our mental health:

In 1980, experimenters demonstrated that young rats fed milk containing soy oil incorporated the oil directly into their brain cells, and had structurally abnormal brain cells as a result.

Studies have also found a very strong correlation between vegetable oil consumption and violent behavior, including homicide (109). 

This graph shows data from one study, looking at omega-6 intake and homicide rates in five countries.

Correlation between homicide rates and omega-6 fatty acid consumption.

Dr. Stephan Guyenet, author of The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat, discusses this in more depth here

And it’s not just violent behaviour. 

There is a significant correlation between the severity of depression and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Many researchers suggest trying to treat depression by reducing the ratio with omega-3 supplementation (106). 

Other researchers have found significantly lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of patients with depression because of their higher omega-6 fatty acid intake (107). 

Too many omega-6 fatty acids have also been linked to increases in cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone (102-104). 

And elevated homocysteine levels – a known risk factor for mental health problems – has been associated with excess omega-6 fatty acids (108). 

I recommend checking out the Perfect Health Diet if you’re interested in learning more about the detrimental health effects of refined vegetable oils. 

Click here to subscribe

Other Possible Food Intolerances

Be aware that you may be sensitive or intolerant to other seemingly healthy foods, and if so, they should be avoided to maintain good mental health. 

This is discussed in Brain Allergies: The Psychonutrient and Magnetic Connections by Dr. Willam Philpott, MD. 

Three eggs. Sometimes people have an intolerance to eggs and it can contribute to symptoms of mental illness.

For example, eggs are an incredibly nutritious and healthy food, but I’m personally intolerant to the egg whites, so I throw away the whites and just eat the yolks. 

It’s not a big deal though because the yolks are the healthiest part of the egg anyway.

But I originally figured this out by following an elimination diet.

You eliminate all possible food allergens and then add them back in one by one and see if you have a negative reaction.

You can learn more about it in this book. 

Some of the most common food allergens that could affect your mental health include:

  • Eggs

  • Soy

  • Corn

  • Nightshade vegetables

  • Peanuts

  • Tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans.

  • Yeast

  • Fish

  • Shellfish

  • Sulphites

If you struggle with mental health problems, you should cut them all out for at least 2 weeks. Then add them back in one by one and see how you feel. 

Eat each food a lot over the course of three days and monitor your reaction to each one. Sometimes negative symptoms can pop up a few days later. 

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the role of food in the development of mental health disorders is often overlooked by conventional psychiatrists and some psychologists. 

Fruits and vegetables in the shape of a brain.

They hardly receive any training in nutrition and rarely consider food intolerances as a possible cause of mental health symptoms. 

Instead, psychiatric drugs are simply prescribed, which can lead to worse gut health, more symptoms and more medications. 

However, psychiatric drugs are necessary for many people. I completely understand that.

But if your mental health is failing, try eliminating gluten, dairy and refined vegetable oils and observe the effects. You may be surprised at how much better you feel. 

Please share this post with anyone that might find it useful. 

Let’s spread the word that there is a link between nutrition and mental health!

Enjoy This Article? You Might Also Like My FREE Food Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health!

Click here to subscribe

Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

Connect with me

About the Author

Jordan Fallis is a health and science journalist and researcher, and the founder of Optimal Living Dynamics, a website that has helped more than 1.5 million people improve their brain and mental health. His work has been featured in the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Pharmacists Journal. Jordan has also interviewed, consulted, and worked with more than one hundred medical doctors, health practitioners and leading researchers. He spends a lot of time scouring medical research, writing about what he finds, and putting the theories to the test on himself.

References:

(1) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061010022602.htm

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184556/

(3) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apt.12809/full

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12366374

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19014325

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1808742/

(7) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-10/sh-nsl101016.php

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24275240

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11346203/

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20533598/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18365905/

(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12217453

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15489401/

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9548226/

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17122729/

(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7842435/

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19244266/

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14716525/

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12217453

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14716525/

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17030405/

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20545470/

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10086676/

(24) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apt.12730/abstract

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24689456

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184556/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17085630/

(28) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1399-5618.2011.00894.x/full

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12650798/

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19564647

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19581261/

(32) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19027584/

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20683204/

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15526989/

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12168688

(36) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20406576

(37) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19664354

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8930054

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16423158/

(40) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13707687/

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5820122/

(42) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4739849/

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1246624/

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/567316/

(45) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9408073/

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/707651/

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3524724/

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7270725/

(49) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19494248/

(50) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20471632/

(51) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20884755/

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19748229/

(53) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6192458/

(54) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19748229

(55) https://goo.gl/CBo7bX

(56) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19748229

(57) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535227

(58) http://http//onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0447.1966.tb01920.x/abstract

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19494248

(60) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6609726

(61) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061010022602.htm

(62) http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/792544

(63) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17030661

(64) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15774013/

(65) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6192458/

(66) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21248165

(67) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23639523

(68) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10086676

(69) http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/126/3/685.short

(70) http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/124/5/1013.full

(71) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18787912

(72) http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/74/9/1221.full

(73) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24483336

(74) http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00130/full

(75) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517012/

(76) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3944951/

(77) http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/72/5/560.full

(78) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/grp/2014/293206/

(79) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5900428/

(80) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641836/

(81) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641836/

(82) http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00130/full

(83) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071146

(84) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9824144

(85) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24313887

(86) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24313887

(87) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071146

(88) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21176030

(89) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20406576

(90) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071146

(91) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22801085

(92) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25018147

(93) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16410648

(94) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22542447

(95) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2715943/

(96) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25018147

(97) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10511332/

(98) https://goo.gl/ChjWh4

(99) http://www.nutrasource.ca/files/omega_3_chronic_nov2006.pdf

(100) https://ods.od.nih.gov/pubs/conferences/w6w3_abstracts.html

(101) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14579680/

(102) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14579682

(103) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909

(104) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3081099/

(105) http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/186/4/275

(106) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8729112/

(107) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/62/1/1.abstract

(108) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15041026/

(109) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15736917

(110) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7225473

Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD

Terms and Conditions

Privacy Policy

Affiliate Disclosure

Disclaimer